With his 1981 album Working Class Dog, and the song “Jessie’s Girl”, he found the formula to make one of rock’s best-ever power pop records, right up there with the stuff of Cheap Trick, The Romantics, Matttew Sweet and The Cars. The guitars, the sugary background vocals and three-minute pop/rock songs about girls and boys and more girls made the album a surprise hit record.
He would never match that sound or vibe again.
He’s given his new album a “take-a-dip-from-past” wash of his previous records, splashing guitar-driven, hook-laden, layered background vocals on the pop/rock. While not a truly great record, it is his best since returning to recording a little more than ten years ago.
“I Hate Myself “ hits the gut with cranked-up fun. The rest of the record could have used more of this rawness. Lyrics hint at some personal darkness (sample: “Go ahead and crucify me, because I hate myself “) with the theme scattered throughout the record.
The album also takes from his 1983 album Living in Oz with it’s harder pop/rock, and his big, song-saving choruses are nothing new (see 1982’s Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, the album that housed “Don’t Talk to Strangers”).
Most of the record is couched in a loud, meaty power-pop gloss. “Love Screws Me Up” is a garage-influenced, guitar-based bubble gum gem of a three-chord rocker, buried deep in the album.
Many of the other tracks are good, not great. As a lyricist, Rick fights hard to combine melody and hooks with lyrics that dig deeply. He’s only mildly successful. Too often he opts for a cliche (“The Calvary’s not coming”, “touch the sky” and “destiny is calling”).
Still,“Our Ships is Sinking” stays afloat with big chorus bombast. “Gabriel” is a slow burn ballad that turns anthemic, again, nearly saved by a big chorus. In fact, every song seems saved by the “big chorus”.
In that way, he is like Def Leppard: just listen to their choruses explode. Springfield has same gift for writing musical hooks that stick in your nostalgic ear. Forget the ballads. Go find the echoes of 1981. That’s where this record wins.